Monday, March 15, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake - The Berryfest Princess Movie

And so, the second installment in the 2009 revamp of Strawberry Shortcake has arrived, promising to make good on Everything's Better With Princesses. Now, according to various episode guides that are already available online, the movie presented on this DVD is actually three episodes of the upcoming Berry Bitty Adventures TV series, and I'm inclined to believe this is the truth, since the DVD opens (after a trailer for Sky's the Limit!) with the theme song set to clips from this movie, the first movie, and other scenes not yet seen. Also, the third act isn't as connected to the rest of the story as the first two, making it pretty plain that this is a two-parter plus one.

Berry Best Berryfest Princess
The movie begins with the girls counting down as a snowman melts, the last remnant of winter. Now, normally Princess Berrykin would plant the first flower of spring, but, as Strawberry so expositionally tells us, she's been called away to Berry Big City (any relation to Big Apple City?) and so the task falls to an elderly berrykin, Berrykin Bloom. And up it grows in a flash, taking Bloom with it. With spring officially here, it's time for the Berryfest Spring Festival! The girls run off to get started on the preparations, but Blueberry Muffin stops them. Thanks to her prized first edition of Berry Bitty City's history, she's learned that there has to be a Berryfest Princess to run the festival, and that's usually been Princess Berrykin. She starts to list off the Princess' duties, but the berrykins take over, knowing it best. The many responsibilities are of no interest to newcomers Sadie and Katie, two ladybug sisters, until they hear the Princess gets to ride at the front of the parade in a beautiful carriage.
The girls suggest ways to chose a princess, but Postmaster Bee announces that they'll have an election, something that's never occurred in Berry Bitty City before. So what, does Princess Berrykin rule the city, or is it just autonomous? At any rate, there are too many candidates for Princess, so Postmaster Bee decides to narrow down the field, and Mr. Longface Caterpillar (who thankfully does not do too much in this movie) latches onto that idea and puts the girls (and ladybugs) to the test. The first test: identify flowers purely by scent. Only Sadie and Raspberry Torte miss their flowers, though technically Sadie was disqualified for eating the flower instead of smelling it, and Raspberry's allergy, usually so strong as to make her start sneezing from sniffing a fabric flower, doesn't come into play here.
The second test is a bit of an obstacle course, as the girls must climb a strawberry plant, pick a berry, climb back down, dig a hole, plant the berry and then water it in order to win. Longface announces that the first two to do it will be the candidates, but why not just make it so that the winner is the Princess? To make the episode longer, I suppose. As the race to the berries begins, Lemon Meringue gets bogged down trying to decide which plant to climb, and Blueberry can't possibly get picking without consulting her books. Strawberry and Orange Blossom take the time to compliment each others' climbing skills, and the disqualified Sadie sneaks her sister a saw. Plum is first to the top, but she can't quite get the strawberry off its vine. Meanwhile, Lemon decides to dig her hole first and then climb up, though she didn't anticipate Katie falling into it, strawberry and all (the downside of cheating). Strawberry and Orange finish at exactly the same time, and share a high five. Longface declares the two girls the official candidates, and everyone cheers, completely oblivious to Plum falling off her vine in the background. Though neither came close to winning, both Katie and Sadie have plans to ride in the carriage, no matter what.
Later on, as Strawberry works on her election posters, Lemon Meringue and Sadie Bug both arrive to tell her their intentions to be her campaign manager. Needing all the help she can get, Strawberry declares they can both be her managers, and gets them started on helping with her posters. Over at Orange Blossom's shop, Katie interrupts Orange handing out Vote For Orange buttons to berrykins, declares herself Orange's campaign manager, and swaps out the little buttons with BIG Vote For Orange buttons instead. Orange isn't sold on Katie's techniques, and so sends her off to get a speechwriter instead. Back with Strawberry, Sadie's attempts to get some posters up with her own picture are kiboshed by Strawberry, who sends her to get Blueberry to write a speech for her. With the ladybug out of the way, Lemon expresses her misgivings about working with Sadie, though Strawberry is having misgivings about the campaign in general.
Both ladybugs arrive at Blueberry's house at the same time and demand a speech from the blue-haired girl. Blueberry points out that she shouldn't really write both speeches, and she hasn't decided who to vote for yet. Sadie and Katie try to entice her by promising to let her ride in the carriage at the parade, but Blueberry doesn't make any promises. Instead, she runs over to Strawberry and lets loose her confusion. She can't decide which one of them she'll write a speech for because she doesn't want to hurt either of their feelings. She declares her indecision the worst thing that's ever happened to her and then runs off again, leaving Strawberry to wonder if anyone else feels the same way about the election. Sure enough, Raspberry Torte and Plum Pudding both show up in quick succession with similar woes over voting, leaving Strawberry more worried than before.
Over by the stream, Postmaster Bee comes across Strawberry hard at work writing a speech, but is surprised to learn she's planning to resign from the election. He tries to convince her not to resign (apparently not liking the idea of Orange Blossom as Berryfest Princess?), but Strawberry tells him that she can't take how the election is tearing her friends apart. While vaguely patriotic music plays in the background, Postmaster Bee explains to her that an election is not a popularity contest, even if it seems that way, and that giving people a choice proves that even those who disagree can still get along, which makes Strawberry think of her campaign managers. That night, she returns to the cafe to find that Lemon and Sadie have finally ironed out their differences, which inspires Strawberry to write her election speech.
The next day, the two girls offer their speeches. Orange's main promise is more action, less planning, which is well received. Strawberry's speech gets more screentime, as she basically regurgitates what Postmaster Bee told her at the stream, plus, she's for more planning before doing. Immediately after the speeches, the vote is held, right out in the open, so everyone can see who is voting for who (-_-). Longface presides over the voting and the counting, while Postmaster Bee tallies. In the end, the votes are tied, which shouldn't be possible, according to Longface, who has the sheet of registered voters. Turns out that Orange Blossom forgot to vote in all the excitement. And so, with everyone watching, she goes to make her vote. And thus, to everyone's amazement, Strawberry is voted Berryfest Princess. No one is more amazed than Strawberry, but Orange explains that she feels Strawberry would do a better job at being Princess, and the two share a hug. Sadie gloats to Katie that she'll get to ride in the carriage, but Strawberry just tells her that she and Orange already decided that they would let both sisters ride for being so quote-unquote "good" campaign managers. This doesn't keep the ladybugs from arguing over who gets the front seat, though.

A short digression before moving on. Now, according to that blackboard, there were 150 votes before Orange voted. Minus the rest of the core six, Sadie, Katie, Postmaster Bee, Longface Caterpillar, and that other ladybug I'm assuming is Katie and Sadie's mom, that leaves 139 votes from the berrykins. Which means that when Princess Berrykin is around, there are 140 berrykins total. I'm not sure if there's any significance to that, but there it is.

Strawberry's Berry Big Parade
A short time later, or maybe the next day, Strawberry is greeted by a myriad of berrykins outside her door, hailing her as the new Berryfest Princess. Strawberry thanks them, but admits she's not sure what her duties are. The berrykins begin to reel off various things she'll need to do, such as judge the flower show and twirl a baton at the parade, but they come too fast and furious for Strawberry to keep up. So one of the berrykins pulls out Princess Berrykin's book of Berryfest tips, and reads the official description: "The Princess shall preside over the festivities of the Berryfest. Especially the parade must be the berry best." With that cleared up, the berrykins start to leave, but Strawberry calls them back, since that didn't really explain how she's supposed to run the Berryfest. Luckily, Princess Berrykin included a list of all the duties in the book, which the berrykin hands to her. At first it appears to be an index card, but as soon as Strawberry declares the list do-able, it expands like an accordian, leaving her speechless.
Now, if Princess Berrykin had the forethought to write a book on being Berryfest Princess in the event that she would miss the festival, wouldn't she have thought to pick out her successor when she was called away on her business trip? Well, anyway, Strawberry muses on what to do about all her tasks while Custard plays around in the cafe, and decides to delegate some of the tasks to her friends, since they already told her they wanted to help. So she pulls out her cellphone and gets busy. A little later, she goes to check on things with Orange, who is supposed to be making a garland for the parade route. But when Strawberry gets to the store, she finds Orange not working on the garland at all, but sorting out her mixed nuts (as in, actual nuts got mixed in with metal nuts). Strawberry tries to guide her to working on the nuts after making the garland, but it turns out Orange still has to pick up the petals for it, and she asks Strawberry to mind the store (and sort the nuts if she gets bored). Not too long after Orange leaves, Plum shows up, which saves Strawberry a trip, though she's disappointed to learn that Plum hasn't finished choreographing the dance the berrykins will perform after the parade and is actually there to work on a bunny-hop dance for her and Orange to do during the parade. With Orange gone, she implores Strawberry to help her work it out, though Strawberry points out she's busy sorting Orange's nuts. But at Plum's suggestion, she hop-dances and sorts nuts at the same time.
Which is right when Blueberry shows up. "Do I wanna know?" she asks. After a quick explanation, Strawberry asks Blueberry how the parade route she asked her to draw up is coming. Blueberry complains that she couldn't find her special pen because Plum Pudding borrowed it, so she had to make due with a pencil, and unfurls the route right there and then. Strawberry tries to get her to show her when she's not doing two things at once, but Blueberry is sure it'll only take a sec. So Strawberry takes the route map, still hopping and sorting nuts, which is exactly when Orange returns, also asking "Do I wanna know?" With all the activity, Strawberry trips on the bottom of the map, knocks over the boxes of nuts, slips and just barely catches Plum's boombox as it falls. Realizing just how ridiculous that whole thing had become, Strawberry beats a hasty retreat to check on her other friends, though not before imploring the girls to help each other out, with minimal success.
Over at Raspberry Torte's, Strawberry catches her at work on a butterfly wing for a float, but she promises to make Strawberry a gown for the parade just as soon as she's done. Strawberry is relieved that something is on track at least. While she's there, Lemon shows up to talk to her about the music for the parade, but gets distracted by the wings for the float, which she'll be standing on with Raspberry, and the two dance around with the wings for a bit, to Strawberry's dismay. And then Lemon gets the great idea to add rhinestones to her wing, and runs off even as Raspberry insists that the wings have to look the same. But once the girl is gone, Raspberry runs with the idea of making the wings sparklier, though Strawberry tries to keep her from getting off track. Raspberry reasons that working on the wings is for the parade, so Strawberry tries to get her to go to Lemon so the two can work together and "speed things up." But Raspberry just asks Strawberry to help her instead, if she's so concerned about speeding things up. Strawberry still has work to do, though, and declines.
Later that day, Strawberry wonders why her leader skills aren't working, as nothing has gotten done. She pulls out her list again, swamped by all the things she has to do. Custard plays with the bottom of the list, so Strawberry checks out the very last task, which is "Make the parade fun." This must be what her problem is, she muses, she assigned too many tasks to her friends so they weren't having fun, and thus she resolves to do more herself. Cut to the berrykins working on setting up for the parade while "Pick 'Til the Work is Done" from the first movie plays. Strawberry checks off a few tasks while working on her baton-twirling. She assures Orange Blossom that whatever garland she's finished is fine, though she's secretly a little disappointed that there isn't more. Blueberry arrives with a new route for the parade, but since the posts for the garlands are already up, it's too late to change it. Strawberry promises to see if the posts can be moved, just to make Blueberry happy, though she keeps hanging up the garland as Plum arrives to show off her improvements to the bunny-hop and Raspberry and Lemon ask which of their wings is better. Strawberry reminds them it's not a competition, but Lemon just takes this to mean that her one looks best. As the two girls walk off, Strawberry topples off her ladder and ends up with her skirt caught on the hook, though her pleas for help go unnoticed as the other girls argue over whose task is more important, and Plum hops all over everything, before declaring the whole thing no fun at all. The five girls leave in a huff, which Strawberry blames on herself for giving them too much work. Lemon returns, but not to help Strawberry down, but to hand her the wing and demand it be beaded in ten minutes before leaving again. A stray gust of wind picks up the wing and Strawberry with it, leaving her stranded at the top of a cherry tree.
As the parade floats sit ready and waiting to begin, everyone is in a frenzy trying to find the girl of the hour. With Strawberry nowhere to be found, Plum wonders if Strawberry quit and ran off. Thinking about that, the girls realize how wrapped up in themselves they've been, even though Strawberry only asked them to do one or two little things, really. Fully convinced that Strawberry took off on them, they cry and list off their faults and Strawberry's strengths, which only leads to even more crying. Finally, Strawberry makes her voice heard from the top of the tree, and the girls realize what actually happened. With the truth known, everyone heads out to rescue Strawberry, with Raspberry grabbing the other butterfly wing, the berrykins taking the garland, and Blueberry leading the way. Also, for some reason they do the bunny-hop across a stream. Once they reach the tree, the girls tie the garland around Raspberry's waist, and she uses the butterfly wing to sail up to Strawberry, with Blueberry and Plum in tow. Strawberry laughs when she sees this, though she won't tell Raspberry why until they reach the bottom. Everyone else pulls them down with ease, and Strawberry reveals that up in the tree, the girls and berrykins marching to her rescue looked like a parade that was an awful lot of fun. The others concede that it was fun, since they were working together for a change. But Blueberry takes the time to give Strawberry her due, since she couldn't hear them learning their lesson earlier.
And so the parade gets going, set to the sing-along from the first movie DVD, "We're All Stars." Blueberry rides her scooter, leading a few berrykins in cars, Orange pogos while Plum bunny-hops, and yes, Sadie and Katie both ride in the front seat of the carriage. A strong wind grabs the butterfly from Lemon and Raspberry's float, but Raspberry grabs the butterfly and nearly gets taken along with it, but for Lemon grabbing the rope it was attached to, thus leaving Raspberry in the air to finish off the parade.

You know, I'm glad that Strawberry's friends acknowledged that Strawberry really only gave them each one thing to do, 'cause she kept going on and on about how she gave them "too much to do." So yeah.

Berry Best Choice
Another part of the Berryfest (along with things we never got to see, like the flower show and the Berrykin's after-parade dance) is the search for the Wanderberry, so named because it always grows in a different location. It's the traditional dessert for the Berryfest Feast, and that's just one day away. The girls and the berrykins have been searching, but with no luck so far. Blueberry points out that technically the Berryfest Princess is in charge of the hunt, and charges Strawberry with telling them where to look. Strawberry obliges, though as soon as she points out where she wants to look, the others take off in completely different directions for various reasons. Strawberry, however, must follow her heart, and goes off with Pupcake and Custard.
What makes the Wanderberry so hard to find is that only one plant grows at a time, and each time the berry is picked, it grows back in a completely different place. But, being as Strawberry is the main character, her hunch was right and she soon finds the Wanderberry. Luckily enough, Berrykin Bloom shows up at much the same time with the wagon. As he gushes over the Wanderberry, the other girls hear him and rush to their location to gush along with him. Tradition states that the Berryfest Princess plucks the berry, but considering how much trouble Strawberry has picking it, one wonders how Princess Berrykin managed it. With the berry gone, the rest of the plant vanishes into thin air, set to spring up at some unknown location. It's going to take everyone working hard to get the berry back to Berry Bitty City, but Strawberry is distracted by a birdsong that only she and Bloom can hear.
On the way back, the wagon's wheels suddenly break, leaving the girls with no choice but to carry it themselves, despite the weight. By the time they get to the outskirts of BBC, it's already dark out, and all the girls are exhausted, so they set the wagon down by the gazebo for a short break. With the wagon off their shoulders, the others start to wonder if they shouldn't just leave the Wanderberry where it is, though Strawberry is loathe to just leave it. Traditionally, the berry is stored at the BerryWorks, but Bloom points out that since Strawberry is the Princess, it's her call. Orange reasons that they'll be having the Feast at the gazebo anyway, so they'd just have to carry it all the way back again the next day. Strawberry still has misgivings, but she gives in and lets the others leave it tucked into the gazebo.
The next morning, Strawberry is greeted by the birdsong she heard the day before, only it's slightly different. Strawberry starts to go off in the direction of the song, worried that something is wrong, but is stopped by a hysterical Orange Blossom and Plum Pudding. They lead her to the gazebo, where the Wanderberry is no more, (supposedly) eaten by bunnies. Coulda told ya that was gonna happen, seriously. Strawberry does not, however, say "I told you so," but instead points out that there's a new Wanderberry out there somewhere. But once again she's distracted by birdsong, until her friends point out that there's still a lot to do for the Berryfest, most of which needs to be done by her. So Strawberry delegates some of the tasks to her friends and sends a few spare berrykins to go find the new Wanderberry.
With everything set but the Feast, Strawberry and her friends work on getting the food ready. Just as Strawberry declares that nothing can stop them, the berrykins she sent out earlier return, but with no luck finding a Wanderberry. With a number of things still needing to be done, the other girls ask Strawberry what she's going to do, over and over, until Strawberry finally cracks and tells them she doesn't know, and goes off to think. Outside, she hears the birdsong and wants to go help, but her friends are waiting. She moans about how hard it is to make a decision, and Berrykin Bloom shows up out of nowhere to give her some advice. Basically, he tells her to follow her heart and not worry about what the others might think. While he goes to buy her some time with the others, Strawberry finally goes after the bird she keeps hearing.
After following the sound of the bird for a while, Strawberry doesn't find it, but Custard finds the new Wanderberry. This one is small enough for Strawberry to pick with ease. Shortly after she finds it, Raspberry Torte and Lemon Meringue, who were worried about her, run up to her and express their delight at the berry. They take it from her and they all start to head back, but Strawberry hears the birdsong again and goes after it with the others following after her. This time she finally finds the bird, its leg tangled in a vine. Strawberry frees it, but it doesn't fly away, and Strawberry won't leave until she knows why. Raspberry suggests bringing a doctor to it, and Lemon thinks they should make a stretcher and take the bird with them, but Strawberry notices the bird eyeing the Wanderberry. She offers it a bit of the berry, despite Lemon's gentle reminder that they need it for the Feast. The berry seems to be helping the bird recover, which Berrykin Bloom (appearing out of nowhere again) attributes to the Wanderberry's fabled nutritional properties. Lemon again tries to remind Strawberry that everyone is expecting a traditional Wanderberry dessert at the Feast, but Strawberry has made up her mind to feed the entire thing to the bird because it's the right thing to do. But more than that, it's her decision and she's sticking to it. Raspberry and Lemon have to admit that the bird, restored to full health, is awfully beautiful, and commend Strawberry for making the right choice.
Back in BBC, Strawberry, Raspberry, and Lemon find that the new Wanderberry has conveniently sprung up right outside of Strawberry's cafe, meaning that the Feast is on! Skipping straight to dessert, before the Wanderberry is served, Berrykin Bloom makes everyone give Strawberry a round of applause, and as Strawberry starts to give a speech, she is once again distracted by the same birdsong, but this time everyone can hear it. Bloom points out that the song is a little different this time, a variation meant just for Strawberry Shortcake. With that all set, the serving of the Wanderberry gets underway, set to a song about friendship that closes out the movie.

So, all in all, a cute set of intermingled stories. As I said before, Longface didn't have too much to do with the story this time around, which suited me fine. As for the new characters introduced here, I wasn't too keen on Sadie and Katie the first time through, but on the second viewing, they kind of grew on me, though their back-and-forth bickering got old real fast. I liked Postmaster Bee (being voiced by Scott McNeil helped, of course), and Berrykin Bloom was all right as a mentor figure, but his character just makes me wonder about the aging process of berrykins. What's the average lifespan of a berrykin, if so many of them are young and only Bloom is old? And where does Princess Berrykin fall in the age spectrum? Blueberry mentions that Princess Berrykin has been Berryfest Princess since the beginning of Berry Bitty City's history, but that could just be because she came up with the festival herself. Maybe she even founded the town. If so, where did Strawberry and her friends come from? It seems this movie has just raised more questions than it bothered to answer.
Another tell-tale sign that the movie's segments are actually episodes from the upcoming TV series is that the animation is not nearly as good as the previous outings (the pilot and the first movie). It's hard for me to put my finger on it, but the animation just kept bugging me the whole way through. The biggest thing I noticed was that the expressions of the characters didn't vary all that much, leading to some scenes where Strawberry is upset, but her face is still smiling. And while I'm not one hundred percent sure, I think the girls' eyes are smaller here than in "Sky's the Limit!"
The only extra on the DVD, besides printable coloring pages, is a sing-along of the song at the end of the movie. The next movie, coming this fall, is called "Glimmerberry Ball," and it looks like it'll be another set of episodes put together. While I'm aware that this is economical, especially since there doesn't seem to be any plans to show the series in the US as of yet, it's a little annoying just the same. And I'd just like to point out that the cover of the DVD (and even more so the unofficial one on the boxes for the dolls) made it seem like all the girls were going to get to wear fancy dresses, and only Strawberry did! I'm hoping that "Glimmerberry Ball" will make good on that promise, what with it being a fancy ball (as per episode descriptions I've found), but I won't be surprised (though I will be disappointed) if that doesn't happen.

Bonus Screenshots:

No comments: